I remember when he raced up six flights of stairs, twenty minutes after we had parted, knocking on my door, breathless, to give me the gift of a strange potted plant with rubbery, green flowers. I thought the plant was ugly, but found the gesture beautiful. I remember the first time he washed my feet in a bath of chamomile flowers and sliced lemons. And when he held my hand and helped me climb the rocky cliffs overlooking the Aegean sea, and said, let go of your fears, don’t let the world persuade you that you’re small and you can’t do it. I remember all the times he carried my groceries and my burdens, and performed impulsive acts of generosity, without any reason or expectation. And I felt an infinite appreciation swell in my heart, not because of how he made me feel or what I got out of it, but because he was that kind of person, because of what it revealed about him. In those moments he appeared exalted to me, miraculous. I glimpsed a kind of sacredness in his words, in the way he moved his hands and walked, and in the wrinkles that formed at the corner of his eyes as he smiled at me like a schoolboy with a secret crush. Everything around me – trees, birds, little dogs passing me on the street, people riding their bicycles – began to take on an enchanted glow. It was as if falling in love gave me sanction to be joyful, to break the rules, to abandon my inhibitions, and to become a child again. I felt giddy, danced in parks with my eyes closed, kissed him on street corners and in supermarkets, and held him tightly as he whispered in my ear on the benches of deserted playgrounds. The magic in my heart poured out and filled the four corners of my world. (more…)
“This work on yourself is necessary; this ambition justified. Lots of people let themselves be wholly absorbed by militant politics … much more rare are they who, in order to prepare for the revolution, are willing to make themselves worthy of it.” – Pierre Hadot
I was seduced by philosophy when I was 18. I was a punk, and an anarchist. I lived by a tacit imperative to rebel, to question all the worldly ideas I had inherited, to transform my own desires, and trust that the world would crumble in their wake. The first time I read Plato, Spinoza, Nietzsche or Foucault their words answered to some inner call, to something I already felt deeply but could not adequately express. And then, somewhere along the way, as I was squeezed through the institutionalized drudgery of college and graduate school, I fell out of love. I believe it is academic philosophy, the professionalization of the passionate quest and its transformation into a discipline, that is responsible for the negative stereotypes most people have when they hear the word philosophy: something disconnected, hyper-intellectualized, obscure, pedantic, boring, and completely irrelevant to everyday life.
Recently I stumbled upon my first love again, after abandoning it for many years. Decades, actually. And I beheld it with different, more mature eyes, after the trials and tribulations of quitting academia, spending a decade as an activist, going through a life crisis and emerging through to the other side as a Buddhist and a closet mystic. And it was precipitated by a chance coincidence, or a synchronicity as Jung would call it, of coming upon two books. The first was Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life. The second was Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life, the catechism that had first molded me into a radical, and which I had forgotten for so long. But I won’t talk about the second one just yet. (more…)